BOX OFFICE: ‘Catching Fire’ Engulfs Massive Audiences

Hunger Games - Catching FireThe tendency for major franchises to seize this frame disputes my claim before I make it, but I don’t think the weekend before Thanksgiving is a particularly strong place for a film to debut, particularly blockbusters. Time and experience has revealed as perhaps a strong launching pad, but one into immediately troubled waters. The holiday season inevitably places major studio efforts on the backburner in favor of smaller prestige Oscar candidates or more palatable wintry fare like next weekend’s Frozen. Fan franchises like Twilight: Breaking Dawn and Harry Potter have opened huge, but neither held their ground particularly well in the following landscape.

Can we expect a similar fate for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. If so, it proves this platform may need to be rethought outside the obviously frontloaded opening weekends. What’s more significant is how the climate feeds long term success. However, if not, and Catching Fire does maintain its spark well throughout the holiday frame, that’s more a statement of how the film itself thrives in any circumstance, as well as one of audience affection for this film specifically. Given the two Mockingjay films are set to open in the same frame for the next two years, Lionsgate should hope this franchise has wings, speaking of which…

Weekend Winner

Hunger Games - Catching FireCatching Fire has Hunger for fan affections

While longterm success is an unenviable hurdle this franchise entry will have to endure, its success upon opening is quite bright. It may not leave its predecessor’s opening entirely in the dust, only pulling $8.6 million ahead of The Hunger Games‘ $152.5 million debut, but as I said before, this frame isn’t as kind as its reputation precedes. Its target teen-to-young-adult audience is busy with the toughest interval of their school semesters, now heading towards finals. It’s frankly a better frame for young kids (who could care less about school at their age) or stoic adults (who can manage time without the stress of their futures weighing down on them (slightly morbid? Well, I’m not old yet, so I’m going to enjoy making jokes about it while I still can)). The film’s CinemaScore was a solid “A”… which really means nothing except that the fans who were going to love it anyway were given precisely what they wanted. It’s the agnostics dissatisfied with the first film that Catching Fire needs to snag on. As one such agnostic, let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised (see tomorrow’s Quick Takes for further thoughts).

Weekend Loser

"I volunteer as tribute"

“I volunteer as tribute”

Delivery Man doesn’t deliver on Vince Vaughn promise

Come to think of it, does anybody recall Vince Vaughn himself having any decisive box office sway, because I can’t think of any such occasion. Couples Retreat maybe, but if he had any notable star magnetism, it’s surely dissipated by now. He’s an actor who seems to be waiting for “the signature type-shattering film role”, something that will break him out of conventional preconceptions and reveal his hidden promise. He’s not going in a good direction so far, and Delivery Man is not that film, earning a pretty dismal $8.2 million this weekend. What hope did it have against Catching Fire, anyway?

Box Office Top 10 – November 23, 2013

1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (1st Weekend: $161.1 million)
2. Thor: The Dark World (3rd Weekend: $14.1 million; Total: $167.8 million)
3. The Best Man Holiday (2nd Weekend: $12.5 million; Total: $50.4 million)
4. Delivery Man (1st Weekend: $8.2 million)
5. Free Birds (4th Weekend: $5.3 million; Total: $48.6 million)
6. Last Vegas (4th Weekend: $4.4 million; Total: $53.9 million)
7. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (5th Weekend: $3.5 million; Total: $95.5 million)
8. Gravity (8th Weekend: $3.3 million; Total: $245.5 million)
9. 12 Years a Slave (6th Weekend: $2.8 million; Total: $29.4 million)
10. Dallas Buyers Club (4th Weekend: $2.8 million; Total: $6.5 million)

Limited Release Top 10

"Frozen"... not an indie film.

“Frozen”… not an indie film.

The big limited release success of the weekend wasn’t of the indie market at all. Disney pulled an old release move by debuting animated adventure Frozen in a single theater and watching the theater average ascend to Top 10 heights. By that measure it comes ahead of Red State and behind Hercules for the #7 slot. What does this tell us of its wide distribution future? Not much, really, but it serves as some pleasant publicity for the wintry musical family film.

Not quite a family film, but still likely to tug at hearts is Philomena, possibly Dame Judi Dench’s last major Oscar vehicle and proving quite likely to take in older skewing family audiences. It may have some Best Picture potential in it, not unlike The Blind Side did in 2009, but it’ll have to fight Alexander Payne’s Nebraska for the audience boost, and so far Payne’s film is winning that battle. Taking the #2 slot without having to expand beyond 28 locations, the dry heartland comedy is proving an off-kilter charmer for domestic audiences, including our own Alex Carlson, whose review will arrive as soon as the strange Minneapolis embargo drops. God forbid he let people know how perfect he thinks the film is.

1. The Book Thief (3rd Weekend: $605,000; Total: $1.3 million)
2. Nebraska (2nd Weekend: $350,000; Total: $0.5 million)
3. Frozen (1st Weekend: $237,606)
4. Blue Is the Warmest Color (5th Weekend: $193,000; Total: $1.5 million)
5. Philomena (1st Weekend: $133,716)
6. Kill Your Darlings (6th Weekend: $105,819; Total: $0.6 million)
7. The Great Beauty (2nd Weekend: $54,756; Total: $0.1 million)
8. The Armstrong Lie (3rd Weekend: $44,746; Total: $0.15 million)
9. Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (1st Weekend: $32,000)
10. Narco Cultura (1st Weekend: $7,713)

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